Thursday, 31 December 2009

Last Day of the Year/Decade?

Is it the last day of the decade today? I hope so, because that means that the 20 year fashion cycle will push next year into 90's nostalgia, and there is nothing I love more than wearing died petticoats, lace with cargo pants and combat boots.

When we came into this decade I was 14. Since then, quite a lot has happened. I finished high school, moved to Siena, Italy. Moved back home. Lived in England, then Bologna, Italy. Then home again. I did an arts degree in Melbourne. Found my soul mate, moved to Spain and more recently bought a house in Puglia with him.

Well those were the big things. Lucky I started blogging, that should keep the memories filed in chronological order.

I spent the last morning of this year outside in short sleeves, pruning my olive trees. I still can't believe we own a house.
Being back here and seeing this place has made everything seem real, and exiting. S says that these feel like historic moments. As though we are living in a bright memory being recounted 10 years later. That sums it all up.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Recipe from Puglia.

I’ve been a little vague about the whole thing. I need to get around to writing out the whole house-buying story, something I wanted to do this summer to keep this online journal complete and accurate, but didn’t for scaramanzia, which is an Italian term meaning fear of jinxing something. I’ll do it in the next couple of days, in the mean time, here’s a recipe for anyone interested, typed with love directly from Puglia.

Orecchiette con Cime di Rapa
(serves 4)
700g of Orecchiette. (buy them fresh somehow, or make your own using water, semolina flour and this youtube video... Though I will admire you greatly if you learn from this... it took me a morning of private instruction.)
I kg Cime di Rapa (Turnip tops. Buy organic turnips, and use the green bits. Use the turnips themselves for something else, I can't think of anything off the top of my head. Maybe soup? If these are unavailable use broccoli)
4 anchovies
1 clove of garlic
12 tbsp of olive oil
1 chili
2 tbsp bread crumbs

Wash the turnip tops, get rid of the hardest leaves.
Throw them in some salted boiling water.
Once the water starts bubbling again, add the orecchiette.

Meanwhile, use half the oil in the saucepan and sautèe the garlic and chili. Chop them up first if you want these flavours to come through stongly, otherwise leave them whole and take them out afterwards.
Add the ancovies and melt them into the oil
Add the bread crumbs and continue cooking until they are crispy.
Drain the pasta and turnip tops when the pasta is cooked al dente.
Mix the condiment with the pasta in a bowel,
Moisten it all with the remaining olive oil

Writing my mediterranean travel/ cookbook is something that I’ve put on the back burner for the last year. I’ve been researching it very half-heartedly for the last year, (I think Ihave about 5 interviews scribbled in my journal) but seem to have too many other half-finished projects going on. I thought it might be a nice idea to start sharing some here on my blog on the off-chance that someone who stops by might be a keen cook or an italian food lover, and at any rate able to fathom the idea of cooking and eating again so soon after christmas...

Thursday, 24 December 2009

We're Back in Italy

I could tell by the transport delays, the 8 hour standing train trip, the excessive food intake, the consumerism, the comments on weight gain/loss in the same breath as the greetings, and the ridiculous administrative problems we have already encountered.

I have the kind of love/hate relationship with this country that only occurs when you know another culture just about inside-out.

On the positive side, lots of nephew love, lots of goood food (I know I just complained about that about 2 lines ago). Lots of laughs with Salva and the family. Lots of Christmas and quite a few extra degrees in the air.

And a magical country house among the olive trees that is so close to being ours....
Merriest of Christmasses!

Sunday, 20 December 2009


-6 degrees celsius.
98% humidity
The brightest Spanish sun you ever did see. Like when you turn up brightness, saturation and contrast to near maximum settings on photoshop... Like this.

(Photo of me eating soup by Salvatore, turning up of brightness and contrast to ridiculous levels by moi...)

Lots of coffee,
some reading, and
a spot of baking in the afternoon.
Present wrapping (something I take pride in)...
Suitcase packing (going here for 14 days, though not the entire usual trek. Just straight to Puglia for Christmas, and back. In a plane, which will be a convenient first...)
All to an exotic soundtrack... from the comfort and safety of these sunny rooms we flit and float about in....

Yes, life is good, but I'm feeling a bit uneasy. Things it might be:
The cold weather
The endless consumerism wherever I look.
Something else...?

As I like to say to my mother when she tells me about a problem,
"Oh Well.."

Saturday, 19 December 2009


I was asked in an application form to recognise the most important issue facing artists today...

The role of the artist is visual communicator. Artists tell stories, reflect the world and its events, and express emotions through their chosen form. I feel that the artist's goal is to communicate something. One of the most important questions facing artists today is how to retain the poignancy of such communication in a time where visual communication is accessible to everyone, and the sharing of information so rapid.
Affordable technology such as the digital camera gives anyone the opportunity to be an artist.
Professional artists shouldn't be challenged by this, nor feel the need to “prove” the merit of their work and assert why it is, in fact, art, because I reckon that being an artist today is, more than ever, about visual communication, and some kind of recognition that this is somehow important. Gasp. That was a long sentence.
What I'm trying to say is,
We are all just so naturally competitive, I think.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

It's Colder...

I know I write about it being cold a lot, but it just is. So. Cold.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

On Weekends,

I like staying inside in my studio and experimenting with the spanish light.

We have given up leaving the house unless it is necessary. This is why:

I'm enjoying this winter* so far. Perhaps it's because of the glowing logs. Or perhaps it's because I know I won't have to tough out the whole 5 months of fog and bone-freeze. We are going to Buenos Aires (where it will be summer) in February. Salva is going to finish his thesis, once and for all next year and then....

We will find a European city to live in, with a thriving art and music scene, 3 bedroom apartments for under 500 Euros a month, and brisk but sunny winters. Does anyone know the name of this city?

I'm kind of serious.

Anyway, I now need to write an autobiography for my masters application and it's proving quite difficult. It's also been difficult to think of some people who I'm willing to bother for a reference. What a stupid request that is, anyway. Obviously I'm going to ask someone I like, and who I believe likes me. I'm not going to be asking my year 12 maths teacher.

So I'm going to do it, but don't let that distract you. If you read this, tell me where I should live.

*I know winter has not really begun yet. Winter means time of cold in this case.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009


I had my exhibition and it went kind of well.

People were positive, and they seemed genuine. It was a really positive, encouraging experience for me.

Now I just need to:
Enrol in my masters.
Start planning my next show.
Open my etsy shop. (I'm seriously blocked about this.. I've been saying it for months and months. I just have this vision of a dust covered etsy shop with tumble weeds blowing through it for a few weeks before sadly hanging a little wooden closed sign on its door) - *Sigh. Must open it anyway, it's stupid not to have one, don't you think?

Friday, 4 December 2009

On Blogging

Blogging is weird.

My Dad once said that he didn't get the idea of a public journal. I guess I should have reminded him about all the self-publishing urges that proceeded the blog. The Letter to The Editor writer? That's a pre-blogger. The toilet graffiti artist is a frustrated blogger, and the sky-writer might just be the "celebrity" blogger that has so much traffic that they have sponsors and so many comments that they have to turn them off...

I was explaining the blog phenomonen to a friend over the weekend, and suprised myself with the explanation of why I do it.

It started as a way to show my art, and it still is primarily. It has also become a convenient story-telling site for whoever happens to be interested (my mind flicks to the scene in Julie and Julia where she happily receives her first comment on a post and opens it only to find it's from her Mum).

For me it's so much better than an actual journal because the fact that I have to express myself coherently is a writing exercise, which is really nice. It also means I can actually understand myself when I go back to read it.

The downside is that sometimes I have to read through my own lines to remember what I was actually feeling on any given day, because I can't bare all on here, just can't. It's strange that the majority of blogs I read are big, soft, intimate spilling types.

That allows for connection with others which is probably, really, what it's all supposed to be about.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009


My hair was falling out at an alarming rate a month or so ago, but It seems to have stopped.

My jam-making has come to a stand-still.

My little computer was taken violently ill on Friday. We took her to computer hospital where she was admitted by a computer doctor with a suitably appalling bedside manner. (I know it's a sweeping generalisation, but you don't want your IT guy to be charming, do you? Social ineptitude can be a good sign in these guys...) I wanted to sleep there next to her in a fold out chair/cot, but Salva convinced me it would be better to stay strong and wait for the news. It turns out it's like macbook appendicitis, you know, dangerous but accute, has to be caught in time. She's coming home on Friday.*

This week I was able for the first time, since moving here, to put up a themed exhibition.

It's great! At least, I think it is. It's been up since Sunday evening but I havn't seen it yet. Does that seem strange? I took them in on Sunday evening and the organization man seemed to take his curating fairly seriously.. He sent me on my way and I have yet to return.

I was going to go tonight, but by the time I finished working I emerged into the type of fog that should only surface in those films set in Chicago where everyone wears hats and says "the cats pyjamas". In a land where red wine was against the law, the fog added to the hellish atmosphere, and it does here too...

Anyway. I've heard the exhibition is good. Salva called on my behalf last night and was told that there have been positive comments, and my face was spreading with smile while I tried to remain cool. I'm "opening" it on Friday night, so hopefully I'll have perfected the raised eyebrow, sophisticated "thankyou" down by then. Maybe I'll get a photo of me doing it.

My best friend came over for the weekend. We had one night of home-made Panzarotti that finished with a spontaneous performance in the Italian restaurant downstairs. The other was a tapas crawl. There was time for a few coffee dates and long catching-up chats in between. And it was lovely. I really need friends.

During the car trip home from Madrid a week earlier, I spilled to Salva about how I am feeling this now. I've always been the type of person to have few close friends, but keep them very close. In the last 5 years I've lived in Siena, Bologna, Melbourne,and even England for a time. It's always been the same. I go for quality over quantity when it comes to friendships, which although I am always with my partner, leaves me a little lonely, because sometimes you want to talk about the same thing again and again but you can't do that with the same person (it's like re-telling a joke, or worse, explaining it)...

Maybe I should stop being such a friendship snob. (blogpost interrupted by call from Mum, who agrees.)

In other news, We are going to Dublin for the weekend, and I'm enrolling in an online Masters of Fine Arts.

That's it for now.

*The hospital comparison got me a laugh from a Spaniard (difficult) the other day...just re-working it here.

Friday, 13 November 2009


I've been trying to make an exhibition happen ever since I came to live here in Valladolid, and since then I've gone into my studio just about every morning and made something.
Some of it is stupid and some of it is good. Now I have enough good stuff to frame and put on some walls for three weeks.

I really wanted to have a great party, and I even invited my best friend to come over from London for the weekend of the opening, but I had to shift the dates and he is now coming the weekend before the opening. A minor detail, but the first in a list of things that have gone wrong, making me really disappointed about what was supposed to be my event. I might feel better about this if there were more opportunities to exhibit here, but there are not. It's a small city and the art scene is dwindling.

...Oh Well...

On a more positive note, here is a moment I caught between Salva, his friend Kique and one of Kique's new twins, Luisa. (You think I should try to sell it to a gay adoption agency?) Seriously, though... we don't have to joke about everything...

I actually think it has captured a bit of softness here as S considers this little one. Had the subjects been women it might have still been nice, but it's the contrast that makes it. Here is a rare, breath-taking kind of moment rarely seen between men. Quite precious.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Wednesday, 4 November 2009


Today I bought some red carnations for 3 euros at the supermarket. I was feeling good about the purchase until 3 people mentioned on separate occasions that carnations were their mother's favourites. And they were not the type to have young, hip flower-loving mothers. I don't really know my european flowers, but I get a sinking feeling that carnations are a bit, well, daggy.

But these are red and lovely.

Today I also framed this. It's one of my favourites in the whole wide world.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Belgium Again

Last time I said Belgium was the land of beer and bikes, this time it's more like bellies and breast-feeding. Seriously, everyone we know there is expecting a baby or has recently had at least one. It's the capital of the european union.... and reproduction.

The reason for the trip is hard to explain, (not least because it would involve the explanation of my partner's PHD research, and believe me, you don't want to hear that from me).

But let me say this:

There were clowns, musicians, and dancers. Professional and amateur entertainers who were so passionate about their belonging to this project.

There was a wild dancing fairy dressed in red and glitter, and an angular, slow-moving Scandanavian angel with a blunt fringe and enormous white feathered wings, who bent down to speak to most people, cupping her hand over her mouth and whispering into their ears.

There were children painting T-shirts with the project's logo in one corner, and learning to walk along a tight-rope in another.

A documentary about the healing in South Africa as a result of this project.

and me, hanging back feverishly, smiling, observing, documenting.

Friday, 23 October 2009


The fireplace and the smell of cold
Re-sewing buttons
Jazz Blaring
Getting a parking fine (but avoiding that the car is towed away. This is positive.)
Spaghetti for lunch
Packing a suitcase, cos' we're going back here

Hope this weekend is merry for all...

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Monday, 19 October 2009

It's Cold

When I lived with my cousin in Melbourne, we would celebrate the beginning of each new season by listing the things we loved about that particular one on a chalkboard. (all seasons included cinnamon for reasons unexplained, and sex, for reasons that don't need explaining. Sometimes we couldn't think of enough season specific things to fill the chalkboard).

This is quite a common thing to do, I'm not claiming any kind of originality at all here. I see this on blogs all the time, in magazines, and just everywhere.

This is the kind of thing people really usually only do for autumn and winter though, have you noticed? -I get that. This is because that's when we need the most convincing. After living with real seasons* for the last few years, I've noticed that real seasons means that summer is everybody's friend. Everybody greets summer with open, pasty, (but finally bare) arms.

It's when it starts to cool off that I notice people start listing.

"Falling Leaves, Soup...Crusty bread...Woollen Socks...Mick Malthouse...Oh God please help me through to September/April**". I too am trying to be positive, but the truth is that all I can think about is how much I hate feeling cold, and this is only just the beginning.

While I was complaining once that a Melbourne summer was coming to an end, my friend Israel said, in a yeah-well-that's-life kind of tone, that summer and spring are for being inspired, and autumn is for being creative.

To me it seems like summer is for doing, and autumn is for thinking about it.

In Morocco one day, we were flustered and feeling out of control, we both missed our brushes/instruments and Salva put it down to feeling uncomfortable with a life solely lived, and not reflected on. We were missing our creative time, which I guess is, as Israel says, Autumn.

But in Morocco the days rolled by slowly, one at a time and a few weeks felt like months. Now somebody has gone and sped everything up.

Summer was a whirlwind of food, beaches, driving, selling, maps, and Morrocco. Now the vibe at home is pure business. Emails and photographs and event organising.

Here is the latest piece I did for MiradaSonoras.

There is another one of mine too that you can see on their blog.

I'm working on more, and an exhibition in mid-November. So I'm being autumnal, and talking myself into liking it.

*Real seasons, now, means a difference of at least 25ªc between Summer and Winter. You win, Melbourne. You too, Bologna, London, and Valladolid. Northern NSW, and Southern California, you do not fit into this category.
**Depends on your hemisphere, obviously.

Sunday, 18 October 2009


Red Wine.
Art Galleries.
Apple Pie.
Walking/Bike Riding.
Staying in.
Going out.
Pasta From Scratch.
Collecting wood.
Lighting the fire. (soon).
The Library.

The World Through a Pair of Vintage-Coloured Glasses

Monday, 5 October 2009


Nothing has been going on here, except that I've been skittishly throwing paint around and making quick, crazy paintings, brooding about the really big, slow ones and wishing they turned out as good as the little crazies.

This painting is called Brazil, which is a place where I have never been. I used to really want to go there to live, but I don't anymore, it's moved down my list. Perhaps I'm travel fickle.

I used to be so excited by the idea of learning another language and culture, but right now the thought of learning Portuguese and trying to decipher Brazilian culture codes is exhausting.

Actually the north of Europe is calling me. I've been all about the latin cultures for 5 years now, which is a fair percentage of my life. I feel like bikes and recycled toilet paper* and super efficient bureaucratic systems, and Dutch/Flemish or Swedish/Danish**... but also, now that I'm sharing:

The place where I really want to go soon is San Francisco. I like the idea of making some new friends, (maybe artists who will talk to me about painting?) and speaking English to such arty, english-speaking friends. The other day Mum asked me if i ever speak English to anyone and I when I said no, she said "That's weird". I 'spose it is weird.

*I mean the toilet paper made from recycled paper, usually unbleached. Spanish residents do not have access to such toilet paper.

**Given the opportunity, I would learn a hybrid version of these languages to spread their utility as far as possible.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Corner View-White

My new studio. Though it could have been any room in any house I ever live in. Can only live with white.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

My Van Gogh Moment.

Photograph by Salva

Lately I've been pushing myself forward a little. I applied for two grants. One was quiet affair offered by the region of Castilla y León (of which Valladolid is the capital). I was one of 5 applicants and I left this painting, an artist CV, portfolio, artist statement and proposal for the next year.

The other was a bigger deal. I found out about it the night before. I spent the evening with Salva finishing a painting and re-writing the artist's statement. This foundation's art grants are huge and many, but I'd never even heard of it so I went out there feeling great. Anyway. I walked into this super modern place, past an awesome mixed-media exhibition, accompanied by security guards to the first floor where I walked past a room full of applicant artworks, some of which were facing me and were enormous (I know size shouldn't matter but I got a pretty bad case of wall-space envy). My piece is 75cmx100cm. Modest.

When I walked in there I gripped on to my painting a little tighter. The secretary had to pry it out of hands to prop it up against the wall and give it a number. "Ay que bonito!" She exclaimed. "Are you taking the piss?"* I thought.

Anyway. I filled out the forms and left it there, but before turning away I noticed another mother (eer artist) with a similar doubt-filled expression. Then I looked at the photograph she was handing over, and it was really. really. good. She will probably win.

What was weirdest about my encounter with her was that she was about my height, weight and colouring with hair that was all electric and pinned everywhere and it was like looking at myself from behind. Then, to make things stranger, I went downstairs to find who I thought was Salva looking at the exhibition and almost put my hand in the back pocket of another tall, broad shouldered, olive-skinned man with a black T-shirt and a shaved head. I kid you not. We were multiplying.

So during the drive home and the thoughts about leaving my poor painting with all those big mean paintings that are probably picking on it right now, I also thought about that other girl,her sideways glances and her really really good photograph and then I reflected:

If I were to wait until I thought my art was really good and original before asking for a grant, I may be waiting a very long time, or end up cutting my ear off, or something. So I'm not waiting anymore.

*This is an Australianism, I think.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Must learn to see crumbs...

The New Year always used to come in summer, as I am a southern hemisphere person. After what is now years of being a bi-hemispherical being, I'm confused enough to think that the year is beginning now, at the end of summer.*

It is, in a way. The academic year is starting now, so people are planning their year, committing to classes and routines. That's what we are doing, and that's what this post is about. It's a public declaration of the resolutions we've made/are making, and as so often happens, I'm using this blog as a slate in which to write this resolution testimony.

We came back from Italy/Morocco with all the best of intentions and highest of energies to spring (autumn)-clean our Valladolid living. For a lot of aspects, this simply means living like "real" "crumb-seeing" people. Let me explain.

Eating better. Though we are always good cooks (and eaters) this is about cooking twice a day, eating breakfast (which I never did) and eating a balanced variety of cereals and vegetables... etc.
Organic and local where possible. I'm getting into this. I've always bought organic where it's been readily available, like Melbourne. Now, there is less available I am have to seek it out with my keen sense of smell and bring the annoying question-asking Melbourne dweller to Spain.
Although I didn't even have to ask questions yesterday, at our tiny fruit and vegetable shop. The kind where everything is blemished and a bit dirty, and well, you just assume is at least local if not 100% organic. Salva, who was with me, mentioned that the last oranges we bought weren't anything to write home about, and the girl assured us that "these ones are better, being from Argentina..." Great. Argentine oranges.

From now on, it will be the farmer's market.

Exercising. This is difficult because I HATE exercising, aside from walking. I've been for a 15 minute run twice since being back in Valladolid. But hey, that's better than twice in a year, which was my previous Valladolid average.

Keeping a better house. I love having a beautiful little nest to come home to. I'm good with flowers, paintings/photos** in the right places, keeping the bed made and the floor swept. But I really need to learn to keep up with the laundry, and the washing up, and the putting away of said clothes and plates. Why can't I do this? I observe some people in their homes who can be talking to you, and will absent-mindedly pick up a dish cloth and wipe the bench as they do so. I don't even SEE the crumbs. Do they?

Must learn to see crumbs.

Getting around to cleaning out wardrobe. Oh Mum, I know how you'd love to be here for that. (There is nothing that woman loves more than downsizing.)

This stuff is hard for me, but with all of this in order, I should be able to run an etsy shop, organise an exhibition, and start participating in workshops. Make some new friends and get where I want to be.***

*These kind of things really spin me out... Last night I taught an English class until 9pm, and when I came outside it was already dark, but the weather was warm so it felt like it should be July, in which case the sun should go down at around 10.30pm, and anyway, I'm a bit sensitive to such things and began to feel extremely disorientated...

** These are photos I took of a palm tree in Morocco with the new camera.

*** This is still an art blog, and I have been painting... my flickr is updated with the cover I did for Salva's Demo cd, some new mix-media on paper pieces and the beginning of the Morocco wall series

Friday, 11 September 2009


After a month of work in Puglia, Italy where Salva is from, we were faced with what has become an annual challenge; getting ourselves and our car home to the centre of Spain with minimal cost and effort.

Last year we simply drove. For those of you who don't have a map of Europe in your heads or at the ready, that meant driving the entire length of Italy, across the bottom of France, down to Barcelona, and across to Valladolid. It was nice, but not nice enough to make us want to do it again. So we thought about a different route to take this year.

The other way is via Africa. We spent a few weeks dreaming about how awesome it would be to drive south to Sicily, take a boat to Tunisia, and drive through Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and get another boat to Spain. How awesome. Unfortunately, the border between Algeria and Morocco has remained closed since the civil war in Algeria, and the Algeria/Spain boats are expensive, so that idea was abandoned.

So we went back the way we came. By boat from Italy to Spain, (via Sardinia). The most direct route. We then drove across the bottom of Spain to Algeceiras, and got a ferry from there to Tanger in Morocco.

I wish I'd been able to blog about this trip as I went, it just would have been so much better. I would have remembered the stories as they happened. It seems like too much to write about here in one post, but I'll try anyway, because Mum has asked for a written reflection to read before our next phone call, and because I thought it might be a good way to wake up this sleeping blog.

We arrived into the port at Tanger. The boat was supposed to take 2 and a half hours but ended up taking more than 5. It was around 3 in the morning before we were on land and dealing with visas and customs. The car was immediately identified as Italian, and we were surrounded by people as we filled out the forms; Greeting us in Italian, singing the virtues of the country and its population, (including the "beautiful beaches" of Venice, which left us a little confused and a lot amused) and asking for money in exchange for the valuable help we were getting with filling out the customs forms. (This last point is a very trying aspect of travel in Morocco, and a theme which I'll expand on later.)

We hadn't been home to empty the car, so it was full of our stuff. Musical instruments, computers, art supplies, books, clothes, a bed, and a bread-maker (gift from Salva's Mum). We started the trip feeling a little bit uneasy about leaving the car, especially since it can be easily opened with a pair of pliers (that's how we open it) and that is probably why we didn't stay at Tanger, which has a bit of a seedy side to it, we had a bread-maker to think about.

We drove across to Tetouan, and noticed, as we did, that all the lights in all the country houses were on, at 4 in the morning. This seemed strange but we were too tired to go into it.

We arrived at Tetouan and found a room, in a house turned hostel-inn kind of place, where some ladies let us in, gave us the key, and remained awake. Still thought nothing of it. This was a great way to arrive because we hadn't seen the place in the day time before we woke up. So it was special. We got dressed and walked outside, took about 5 steps and were confronted by a teenage boy, who greeted us in Spanish, then French, then Italian, and then English, and proceeded to chat away in a mixture of the 4. We chatted a while and tried to shake him, as it was a pre-coffee encounter and the way I feel about them is the way most people feel about being seen in their pyjamas.

The next person who wanted to be our "guide" immediately lost favour with Salva, after making a comment about the fasting of the muslim month of Ramadan, and how it probably wouldn't do him any harm. We laughed at his joke and then realised what he'd said, and that we, two food-lovers, had come to Morrocco in one of it's hottest months during Ramadan, when Muslim people engage in strict fasting during daylight hours, and the restaurants and market stalls subsequently close.

It was disappointing, but it had it's upsides. Our very first night we were invited to dinner at somebody's home. The breakfast (as in the fast-breaker) at sundown is considered very important (I'd consider it important too if I hadn't eaten all day...) and the already hospitable Moroccans are even more likely to invite you to a meal during this time. Actually you just have to be standing next to someone when the call is heard from the Mosque, and he or she will probably invite you to have some Ramadan soup.

This was a nice experience. We sat with the wife of the family and the kids (6 and 9) kept looking at us and going into hysterics.

We moved on from Tetouan to Chefchouan, which was different in that it obviously had a more established history of tourism. We were warned that it was a kind of hippy place, but we took the risk and went there anyway. It was so so beautiful, and we were thankful in a way that there were other foreigners, because it meant there were a few restaurants open and we were able to eat something.

Via a tiny fishing village so asleep i didn't even remember it's name, we went to Al Hoceima. On the way we stopped to make ourselves a coffee and a boy of about 10 years came over to chat to us. He was delightful, and probably the person that taught us most about what the country is like. He spoke quite fluent French and told us that next year he would begin studying English. He asked about the other countries we had travelled to and wanted to talk about other Islamic countries he had seen on Al Jezeera. He was impressed that we had seen Dubai and thought it must be one of the most beautiful places in the world, because of it's big hotels. He explained that he isn't expected to fast during Ramadan because he's just a kid, but is beginning to try this year, every other day. As we left he picked up his soccer ball and ran off with his brother who was patiently waiting nearby.

photo by Salva

At Al Hoceima we had an experience trying to find somewhere to sleep. We had already noticed that Moroccans are everywhere. I mean, that would be expected in Morocco, but they really are EVERYWHERE. You can be in the middle of no-where, in Morocco, and someone will be sitting on a rock, or in a tree. (Take above 10 year-old story).

In the first room we looked at, for example, when we were shown the toilet, someone was crouched on the floor in there, cooking fish on a tiny camping stove. It was a bit weird, and we decided against the hotel.

The next hotel was obviously run by prostitutes and helped me understand why we use the word brothel to describe untidy places.

The third seemed to be run by an 8 year old and was also far from satisfactory. So we gave up and slept by the beach in the back of the van.

Al Hoceima was also the place where Salva bought a traditional Moroccan robe, if his intention was to blend in with the crowd, he must have been happy with himself because he looks exactly like a Moroccan man. We had a conversation with the man who sold it to us. He was one of the few people we met that didn't speak French, so we had the conversation in Arabic. That is, he spoke in Arabic and Salva furrowed his brow. At the end of the discussion, they exchanged phone numbers. I can't wait for him to call.

We went from there to Fes, and spent the next three days just trying to find the main Mosque, and getting a bit frustrated with the sellers and the "guides" who are drawn to foreign faces like flies to honey. Here was where we began to get irritated with the tourism-related problems of travelling this country. Salva had to have one of those moments men sometimes have (where they stand really tall, and speak to each other really closely pointing fingers at chest level) with a parking inspector who was obviously and unashamedly trying to rip us off... the poor guy was just the straw that broke the camel's back.

We moved on to Meknes, where we spent the day trying to find the historical centre, and admiring the artisans. Once we found the main square Salva was happy to find some musicians busking there. We watched them play the crowd and marvelled at how different the ritual of performance was. The buskers wouldn't play until their hat was full, they were paid first, and then they would perform, they did this before each song. They were obviously telling jokes and being funny, but no-one was laughing, no-one applauded, or danced, or moved in anyway. They just listened.

Oh, and there were about 100 people just listening and I was the only woman there.

We started to head home after this, heading north from Meknes to Tanger. We stopped somewhere (don't know where) on the way to sleep and wash. The room was good value, and like most of the cheap ones, had a seperate shower with a gas hot-water system that needed to be turned on with every use. We told the young guy running the place that we needed the hot water, and he yelled out for someone to go and see to it. When we went into the shower room, (literally a room with a flurescent light and an ancient shower head coming from the ceiling, the window was open and we could see a man lighting the hot water system. We laughed at this, and he laughed with us as he lit it. Then we closed the window, the glass panes of which had been painted over, but were peeling, leaving gaps.

Oh well, we thought, he would have gone by now, and we needed the shower, and neither of us are very prudish about nudity. So we showered, and went back to our room.

We closed the window shutters of the room which backed onto the same courtyard as the bathroom, and noticed that it was missing a piece, like a chunk out of it. So I stuffed my towel into it, and we undressed and went to bed. As we lay there then, about five minutes later we heard the towel dislodge (itself?) I went over and stuffed it back in. Then, another five minutes later, heard Salva shush me, leap out of the bed, throw open the shutters and ask the same shower man what the f%@k he was doing...

We asked for a room on the other side of the building. We slept there and went back to Tanger to take the ferry back to Spain (not because of creepy shower-man, it was just time to go home...)


Learning to use our new camera is definately one. I've never owned an SLR and I can't remember using one, actually, apart from my polaroid. Ours is a Nikon D80 and it's so great. It was really interesting observing each other with the new toy in such a new, colourful environment. We must have developed our own styles because our photos are very different.


I've since commented that I feel that travel to Morocco could easily become irresponsible, especially for people who are more financially stable than us. The place is not cheap, well, it is, but not that cheap. I'm not complaining that we spent too much money there, it's just a reflection.

For example, we spent, on average, 15 euros for a double room, per night. That's not much for us, but consider that that is 150 dirham, which is alot of money in Morocco, and that 15 Euros could also get you a simple double room in Portugal. It seemed that the price of everything was invented on the spot, and to sound just a bit cheaper than Europe. E.g How much is the Parking? -20 Dirham. The guy expected us to do the maths, and say, "Well that's only 2 Euros I guess", give him the money and be on our way.

That's what we were tempted to do, and probably what most people do, but I think it's irresponsibile. The place is still impoverished and the only people going ahead are hoteliers, restaurant and shop owners, apart from the fact that it's irritating that people want to rip you off, and to have to argue about money, which is ugly, accepting these prices must be damaging for their economy and the reason that hotels with a hole in the ground for a toilet came to cost 150 dirham a night. Tourism isn't enough, I guess is what I'm saying. It just brings fast, big money into the place that is generally used to mask all the problems.

Just a reflection to consider if anyone who is planning a trip to Morocco happens to be reading.

Otherwise, I loved it. Now I'm home relaxing and cleaning my house, starting a series of paintings based on the city walls I saw there. That's it.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

The Move.

While I have been reading blogs, (this one and this one can be great for a giggle) I have, evidently, been writing nothing in my own. This is not because nothing has happened to me in over a month. I have actually been a very busy little version of myself.

I've been:
Painting. (see updated Flickr)

Moving house. How can two people living in an adopted country with no money or particular consumeristic inclinations accumulate so much stuff? Although we now have less stuff, our friends have vowed never to help us move house again.

Making jewelry, because it's summer (work) time and the livin' is not that easy....

If anyone is looking for me, I will be selling earrings on the beach in Sardinia, Puglia, then Corfu until September. This is NOT as glamourous as it sounds, believe me. I will try to document this as it happens, because the stories are funny, and many.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

London In Polaroid

Not London, on London polaroid film pack. I went to make a wish on a huge dandelion last week and accidently pulled the entire plant from the ground by the roots. Then I planted it in a pot. I took this as we were leaving.

Salva took this of my best friend Andy and I...

I'm very reluctant to say this, but I've been to London 6 times now (all short stays) and I've never seen it overcast.

Salva and Andy at Greenwich.

A train passes under Andy's roof terrace.

Some of his neighbours have a sweet little picnic. They were extremely disturbed when I asked permission to take this photo, but followed my instructions (fear?) to act as though I wasn't there....

Well it's now June.

I can't believe nearly half of this year has slipped by already. I went to London on the weekend, with the intention to make it an art-related trip. I designed a new business card and prepared my portfolio before leaving, but, alas, I was not meant to publicise myself this weekend.

My IT and organisational skills leave a lot to be desired. I probably sit dangerously close to the technological disaster side of things. Inconvenient when trying to launch even a humble, mini-career in art.

The business card was not printed, therefore, not distributed and this has made me feel a little bit, well, bad.

Photos by Salva

Has anyone ever observed the way British people greet you with "You Alright?"?
- It really catches me off-guard... ("What, am I bleeding?")

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

This Month

My first polaroid (and real camera, ever...) has brought me a lot of joy. Unfortunately, I need to get paid (win the lottery?) in order to be able to afford some more film packs. I don't want to have to write "sigh", but that is what I'm doing.

The first few attempts are obvious self-portraits in mirrors around the place.

Salva took this one in Belgium of me grooming the Murga Mascot.

And this was taken at El Minuto by the Cordially Acidic one, otherwise known as Chukias Isolabella.

Then I think I got the hang of it. Now, I don't want to have to draw a smiley face ":)", but that's what I'm doing.

Please intervene if I write " I heart Polaroid..."

I've also been painting.

I've added these to my Flickr where I'm building an online portfolio. It's embarrassingly lonely over there. Just saying.